Blackberry Crumble

Blackberry Crumble

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If there is one thing I love to learn about others, it is their preferences for and memories involving food. I’ve shared much of my history with food and cooking in this space already but this month, The Recipe Redux asked us to stir up some of our earliest culinary recollections.

Instead of rehashing how it all began, I’m reposting a very slightly edited version of what I wrote then with a little note about this month’s recipe at the end.

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“Go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you.”
                                                     – Letters to a Young Poet, Rainier Maria Rilke 
 
 
 
The truth is, the beginning is blurry. When I squint back into the depths of my childhood, my thoughts were not long off of food. I would take cookbooks to bed at night, scrunching my eyes into the flashlight-shadows, long after my sister had demanded I put our shared, bunk-bedded room into darkness. Looking back at the shy, quiet, anxious little person that I was then, I recall only that I felt most at home in the kitchen. I still do.
 
It began then, I think, with playdough. My mom mixed up homemade playdough. I remember seeing the recipe on a worn index card in her gray metal recipe box, a box that to this day holds her most cherished recipes. There were two recipes in that box that were beyond intriguing to my child-mind:  elephant ears and playdough. The first was something that I had never considered could be made outside of a hot, steamy, trailer-kitchen at the county fair. The second was the only non-food recipe that I’ve ever known my mom to have on hand. I must have asked her, and she mixed up a batch for us. I don’t remember much after beyond the whirl of the mixer blades, and the fact that my mom brought me into the kitchen, handed me the measuring cups, and taught me fractions.
 
 
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From that moment when I learned to turn on the mixer, to scoop flour into the measuring cups, to follow recipe instructions, up to now, nearly 20 years later, I’ve been most at home in any place surrounded by food. It fascinates me in its cultural symbolism, use as a socio-economic tool and weapon, as a medicine to heal, as a draw to family gatherings and entire holiday celebrations, and most importantly, in its most simple form as basic sustenance for the hunger in all of us.
 
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In those simple childhood days, those most-remembered foods symbolize the dearly loved and oft-hated. My favorites from that gray box included our neighbor’s recipe for honey-cinnamon swirl rolls,  my mom’s homemade bread, and leftover-oatmeal cookies with just the right amount of spice. There was my favorite breakfast, dad’s “stinkbug porridge”, which was a simple concoction of raisins and brown sugar. And then the fresh milk from our cow, Betsy, with flakes of cream floating amongst my morning cheerios. I had to plug my nose to get the milk down after staying an extra hour at the table gathering the resolve to drink it. Now looking back, I realize what a precious experience to have been raised in a place where our milk came right from the cow.

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 In this new season and new beginning of sorts, I am reminded of how I am drawn to food as a means of communication and connection. I am reminded of the beginning, how I learned in the kitchen with my mom and the whirl of the blender blades that are still in her cupboard today. I am reminded that food is special, and that when I go into myself, as Rilke suggests, the only answer I come back with is, yes, I must create.
 
Though I no longer enjoy thick slices of my mom’s bread, or partake in flecks of cream floating in cow’s milk, I hold in my heart and in my cooking a focus on good, simple, nourishing food, in whatever way it can be most enjoyed. I am looking forward to this season to come, and the creations it will bring.
 
 

 Now tell me, what is one of your first memories in the kitchen?

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Blackberry Crumble, serves 4-6
As I indicated above, I began creating with baked goods, and having grown up in an area rich with agriculture and with grandparents that often brought fruit from their own or nearby orchards, baking frequently involved fruit. Crumbles or crisps were an often chosen and easily made dessert that were devoured in a matter of spoonfuls. This one involves blackberries because today happens to be a special someone’s birthday and William requests blackberry desserts annually (or one of its many cousins in the form of boysen or marionberries). Hence, a late September blackberry recipe makes its way into this space nearly every year.

For this recipe, there are a couple options in the way of sweetening and using the oil. For the berries, opt for one tablespoon honey if you’re working on limiting sugar consumption, or don’t tend to eat much sugar, like me. If on the other hand, you do eat sugary sweets regularly, like William, opt for two tablespoons honey and you’ll likely be a little more satisfied. Likewise, we tend to find coconut oil a bit too overpowering in crumbles and pies (even refined coconut oil), and prefer a more neutral flavored oil like canola instead so the blackberry flavor can shine through. I know some particularly like the coconut flavor, so if that’s more your speed, opt for coconut oil instead.    

4 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbs. honey (see notes)

Crumble Topping:
2 cups rolled oats, gluten-free if necessary
6 Tbs. sorghum flour
1/4 cup canola oil or melted coconut oil (see notes)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the berries in a baking dish and toss with vanilla, lemon juice and honey.
  • Prepare the crumble in a separate bowl. Start by mixing oats, sorghum flour, salt and vanilla.
  • Then add the canola or melted coconut oil and honey. Use a spoon or your hands to mix until combined. With your fingers, crumble the filling evenly over the berries.
  • Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges and the topping is golden brown.

Blackberry Hazelnut Butter Oatmeal

Blackberry Hazelnut Butter Oatmeal

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I had a realization yesterday over my morning bowl of oats about how I have spent so much of my life worrying and anxious about the future and so little of it enjoying the day, the experience, and the moment. I have nothing positive to show for all the time spent on those worries. For the past few weeks, when anxiety and racing, circling thoughts start to grip me, as they often do, I’ve tried to take more of a noticing approach, and on some days, can consciously catch myself before my mind jumps in to the chaos, take a couple slow deep breaths, and remind myself the only thing I need to do is direct all of my attention into focusing on the task at hand.

In a similar way, I’ve also been working on eating with mindfulness more often, especially in the morning over porridge. I tend to be a floor person and spend the majority of my “down” time at home on the floor instead of in a chair or the couch. I really enjoy eating my porridge on the floor, sitting cross-legged in front of the big window in our main room, as I watch the morning grow brighter or with the sun warming my face. When I sit and eat slowly without distractions, looking out at the trees and watching the neighbor cats, I begin to experience the connection again, to taste the subtle sweetness and richness of the berries, the texture of the oats, and the hint of hazelnuts. I miss the subtle flavors when I eat it mindlessly while multi-tasking or when in an anxious “what’s next/what if” state of mind.

We enjoyed a wine tasting/sampling at a friend’s party over the weekend and we savored and made notes on six different rosé wines, trying to guess the country, price range, and style. I rarely drink and when I do it’s often in small amounts at social occasions like these, but I really appreciate the act of tasting wine or cider in this way, slowly, with a focus on the whole process:  tasting the beginning, middle, and ending notes and picking out the subtle hints of flowers, of cherries, of chocolate, etc.

Good food has complexity and deep flavors much like good wine or cider does–especially this time of year. Why don’t we appreciate it in the same way more often?

With my intention (again) this week being to focus on the task at hand, I’m going to put more emphasis on extending mindfulness to eating the meals I get to enjoy–and try to return to just eating each time my mind darts off in another in the future direction again.

 

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Blackberry Hazelnut Butter Oatmeal, makes 1 bowl

1 cup water

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats, gluten free if necessary

1 cup blackberries or boysenberries

1/2-1 Tbs. hazelnut butter, to taste

dash of salt

dash of cinnamon, if desired

sweetener of choice, if needed

  • In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Pour in the oats, give the pan a gentle shake to distribute them in the water, and then turn to medium low.
  • Cook until almost done, about five minutes, and then stir in the berries.
  • Allow the berries to either meld completely in and cook down a bit, which will take a few minutes longer and have more of a jammy texture, or simply let them heat just a bit without breaking down.
  • Stir in the hazelnut butter, salt and cinnamon and heat just a minute or so longer.
  • Remove from the heat, allow to sit a moment to develop more flavor and pour into a serving bowl. Depending on the berries, top with your sweetener of choice as needed.

 

 

 

 

superseed porridge with rhubarb, blood oranges + tahini

superseed porridge with rhubarb, blood oranges + tahini

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William took over my yoga mat the other night and started doing weird yoga-esque stretches I’ve never seen before. I’m certainly no yoga expert, but I think he was making them up. When I inquired about this new foray into brief stretching, he started talking about helping out his Qi (sounds like chee), which in Traditional Chinese Wisdom is the circulating vital energy or life force within us.

Around our house, I talk about Qi all the time, especially as it relates to mental clutter, anger or frustration, and digestive unease–basically whenever I notice something is personally out of balance. William is just about the only one I talk about Qi with, and having him suddenly spout my words back at me was a moment of startling clarity. As it turns out, when we spend enough time with someone, we begin to believe and do the same things as each other. I guess that’s why he also wanted only a big thrown together “beans and rice salad” for his weekly meal contribution recently, instead of the more typical tacos, pasta, and pizza fare.

It all makes me wonder, what little practices and sayings am I picking up from him (and others) that I haven’t noticed?

 

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Superseed Porridge with Rhubarb, Blood Orange + Tahini, serves 1

I eat more oatmeal than my old horse but have also been experimenting with a good mixed grain/seed porridge combination these past few months. I’ve finally found one I like. It includes a few of the pseudo-grains/seeds I’ve been trying to enjoy more of including amaranth and buckwheat. They are wonderful and nutritional heavy-weights, but have strong, distinct flavors that can overwhelm all on their own. I leave out what we consider true seeds from the actual mix as I like to add ground sesame, flax, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, chia, or tahini as the whim strikes, and I expect you will as well. Sometimes I add in an adaptogen like ashwagandha or maca powder, which I’m eagerly learning more about in my herbal medicine classes for their ability to help us adapt to stress. That’s a highly individual thing, however, and I recognize that simply making a good morning meal and eating it mindfully at a table is a vast improvement for many of us. I’ve tried this porridge mix with a number of flavor combinations throughout the seasons, but the one I love right now is heavy on the rhubarb with blood oranges and tahini.

 

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Super Seed Porridge Mix, makes 10 1/3-cup servings

2 cups old-fashioned oats, gluten-free if necessary

2/3 cup quinoa flakes

1/2 cup amaranth

1/2 cup buckwheat

  • Mix together and store in a container of choice. When ready to cook, use 1 cup water to 1/3 cup grains for each serving.

 

Rhubarb, Blood Oranges + Tahini Porridge

rhubarb sauce, as much or as little as preferred

1-2 tsp. tahini

1 cup water

1/3 cup porridge mix

1 blood orange, sections separated and roughly chopped and a little zest stirred in.

sweetener, to taste

  • I stew the rhubarb into a sauce or compote ahead of time. Including chopping and prep, it takes no more than 20 minutes. Simply chop a few stalks of rhubarb roughly and then add to a small saucepan along with a small splash of water. Cook over medium high for a few minutes until it becomes a sauce. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t add sugar to the sauce and instead leave it tart. I’ll add a sweetener of choice to whatever I mix it into and adjust as needed. If I feel like getting fancy, I’ll stir in a little vanilla or orange zest.
  • Then boil the one cup water and whisk in the grains in a small saucepan. Cook until it becomes a porridge, and stir in the rhubarb sauce and tahini in the last few minutes, until warm.
  • Finally, add in a little orange zest and the orange sections in the last minutes, as their Vitamin C is heat sensitive and easily lost in cooking. Add sweetener of choice to taste.
  • All in all, this is more of a weekend porridge—or as I’ve taken to doing, it can be easily made up the night before. I cook the entire thing save the blood orange, and then pour into my serving bowl and let it chill overnight in the fridge. The next morning, I simply reheat in the microwave and stir in the orange and orange zest and I’ve got a fancy start to an otherwise busy morning.